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Death of an Englishman by Magdalen Nabb

Death of an Englishman (1982)

by Magdalen Nabb

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At first, I was somewhat stunned when I realized that most of the action in this book would take place while the marshal-- the main character-- is flat on his back in bed. But then I fell under the spell of Magdalen Nabb's Florence. This slim volume contains an entire feast of the streets and neighborhoods of the city, of the Italian way of life, of the keen observation of people's behavior and habits, that I willingly let Guaraccia recuperate while I did my own observing and putting clues together.

Part of the magic of this book is having two Scotland Yard detectives working with the Italian caribinieri. There is the difficulty of not speaking each other's language as well as the differences in investigative procedures. While I watched this group of policemen slowly piece together facts that show the deceased Englishman wasn't as respectable as they first thought, I put together what I'd observed. Nabb is masterful at using Conan Doyle's Holmes and Watson Method: the Italian and British police being Watson, the marshal being Holmes, and the reader somewhere between the two.

First published in 1981, Death of an Englishman, isn't a foray into the dazzling science of forensics. This is a mystery for those who like to observe, ponder and arrive at their own conclusions. How close your deductions are to the author's solution depends on how well you've observed and pondered a disparate group of people all living in the same old apartment building. A batty old Englishwoman operating her own museum, a husband who always seems to be coming home during the wee hours of the morning, a high-spirited little girl (who reminded me more than a little of "The Ransom of Red Chief"), and several more should provide readers with everything they need to know... but it's not until Marshal Salvatore Guaraccia has recuperated sufficiently that everything falls into place. He proves that there's scarcely a thing that can escape his eagle eye.

The setting, the characters, the intricately constructed plot with its touches of humor and compassion... Death of an Englishman is a leisurely-paced book that I enjoyed even more than I'd anticipated. I look forward to returning to Florence and observing the marshal in the future. ( )
1 vote cathyskye | May 8, 2014 |
In this first novel in the series Marshall Guarnaccia hardly appears at all. He spends most of the novel confined to bed in a fever. In the end he solves the murder from within his fever dreams, while everyone else is solving another crime that they believe will lead them to the solution of the murder. The points most interesting about this novel is not the murder mystery but the way it shows the regional and class tensions between Florentines and Southern Italians; the feel it has for the combination of worldliness and claustrophobia of the Florentine streets and apartments; and the comical British who seem to arrive from the Island of the clueless to settle into the city of Machiavellian alleys and Renaissance beauty.
  JerryMonaco | Oct 31, 2013 |
First in the Marshal Guarnaccia series, in which he investigates the death of a reprehensible expatriate. Even the minor characters are well-drawn and the reader almost feels as if she is in Italy. ( )
  auntieknickers | Apr 3, 2013 |
This book talk about a marshal wants to go south and spend the holiday with his wife and family. But he need to do something before. I'd like to introduce this book because of truth. I really thinking a lot. Every people will die, no matter who he/she is, no matter where does he/she from, no matter how old does he/she is. when we read book, we sigh with emotion and we find something new. Read this book, it is really a good book.
1 vote CongXu | Nov 28, 2011 |
This is a gentle introduction to the Marshal Guarnaccia series which involves the murder of a Mr Langley-Smythe, a retired Englishman, in a Florentine apartment. Guarnaccia's character is not yet fully formed but there is sufficient to demonstrate that his oblique approach to detection is worth following. ( )
  VictorTrevor | Nov 26, 2011 |
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The small office was in darkness, except where the red night lamp stood by the telephone on the desk, and the white kid gloves lying on top of a sheaf of papers within the patch of light were flushed pink.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0099443341, Paperback)

Introducing Marshal Salvatore Guarnaccia of the Florentine carabinieri, a Sicilian stationed far from home. He wants to go south for Christmas to spend the holiday with his family, but he is laid up with the 'flu. At this awkward moment, the death of a retired Englishman is reported. Who has shot Mr Langley-Smythe in the back? And why has Scotland Yard felt it appropriate to send two detectives, one of whom speaks no Italian, to 'help' the marshal and his colleagues with their enquiries? Most importantly for the marshal, ever the Italian, will he be able to solve the crime sufficiently quickly for him to be able to join his family over the holiday season?

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:17 -0400)

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